Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25
Rabbi Denise L. Eger
With preparation almost everything is possible. With the proper training program you can learn to run a marathon or ride a bike 500 miles for charity! It is a matter of discipline. It is a matter of dedication and it is a matter of preparation. It is a matter of training and building your endurance.
For example the LA Marathon held each spring has all kind of training programs to help people get in shape physically for the grueling race of 26.2 miles. Whether you live in LA proper or the Inland Empire you can work with the LA Roadrunners group to get you off the couch and across the finish line of the LA Marathon. Registration is now open if you want to discipline yourself and your body to be ready for this endurance race.
The same is true of the AIDS LifeCycle-the more the 500 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles next June. Many of our Temple members have participated through the years even though they weren’t regular bike riders to begin with. And even if you haven’t been on a bicycle since childhood there are many training schedules and programs that will help discipline you for this wonderful mitzvah to help conquer AIDS. This is the link to learn more about the training workshops.
And these are but two examples of how discipline, structure and belief in the cause might help someone achieve a great goal! But it doesn’t just happen because one decides to do so. It takes discipline, fortitude and perseverance. Especially for the times when the training is grueling and the body is tired or not willing!
In this week’s Torah portion Ekev, Moses shares some sage advice with the children of Israel as they are preparing to enter the Promised Land. Moses reminds the people that their journey from Egypt to the edge of Israel/Canaan was a process and describes this journey as the preparation and training for the task ahead. The forty years of desert wanderings which was once described as the consequence of a lack of faith in God (see Parshat Shelach Lecha) is now described by Moses as discipline and training for the era to come. The forty years in the desert was the necessary precursor to ready the people for the challenges of coming into and settling the Promised Land.
Moses says to the people “Remember the long way that Adonai your God has made you travel in the wilderness these past forty years that God might test you by hardships to learn what was in your hearts…” (Deut. 8:2). These tests were not merely trials but each experience along the way was to discipline and train the generations who would enter the Promised Land. Each was an opportunity to build faith and fortitude. Each encounter in the wilderness of Sinai was part of creating endurance in the Jewish people so that they would continue to honor their covenant even once they had settled the Promised Land. Moses says, “God subjected you to the hardship of hunger and then gave you manna to eat,…in order to teach you that humanity does not live on bread alone, but that a person may live on anything God decrees.” (Deut. 8:3).
Moses reminds the children of Israel anything is possible. Sustenance will come from God in many forms, bread, manna, and yes from their faith built through these years of desert training! And Moses then places this training and the miraculous events that helped the Children of Israel do their wilderness training. “The clothes upon you did not wear out nor did your feet swell these forty years. Bear in mind that Adonai your God is disciplining you just as a father disciplines his son.” (Deut. 8:4-5). This isn’t punishment but discipline as learning, as training, as preparation for a new life. Just as a parent tries to teach life lessons, Moses is trying to help us see God is teaching the Israelites life lessons. It isn’t always flowers and warm fuzzies but often that training and discipline is difficult. And it hardens one for the end result. In this case it was settling the Promise Land.
So the next time you set a goal in mind. Remember that it is possible but it will take endurance, perseverance, discipline, and yes faith. Just as it did for our ancestors as they entered the Promised Land. Happy Training!